Two days before reading Zing Tsjeng’s article (What made me love theatre even more? Leaving a bad show at the interval, 28 November), I walked out of a performance for the first time in my life. Having seen Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican in London many years ago, I was excited to take my seat at La Villette in Paris for what I hoped would be a thrilling performance of a much-loved work. It was not to be.
On a slowly rotating stage that reminded me of a nightmare Christmas grotto, performers made a series of “significant” gestures while members of the audience were permitted to parade around the performance space, which for Parisians means “forget the performance and look at me”. I cannot recall ever seeing a piece of music being so degraded and deprived of its energy. It was like seeing an old friend being publicly humiliated. When two goats wearing fluorescent collars were brought on, it was time to leave.
We were followed by a German spectator who could hardly wait to share his ire with us and questioned whether the rights of the composer had been violated. As we made our way to the Métro our anger grew – and boy did it feel good.
• Reading Zing Tsjeng’s piece reminds me of my one and only theatre departure: Hamlet. For some reason, known only to the director, the entire cast appeared on stage entirely in the nude. I made my excuse and left.
Keighley, West Yorkshire
• It doesn’t provide much satisfaction to walk out, but with our best friends we formed the Interval Leaving League more than 10 years ago. Lifeless pace, inaudible dialogue, terrible casting, actors with mics and either awful plays or good ones ruined – my wife and I have endured them all and not always reached the interval. Ten minutes was enough on one occasion not so long ago. Our friends live in another region, but they report similar disappointments from time to time. The pain of going to a show with friends who are loving every minute of something dire is probably the punishment we deserve for passing judgment. People do their best, and often without much money these days. Conversely, from time to time we see something absolutely marvellous, which keeps us going. Now, if the incumbent philistines valued the arts it would certainly make a difference, but that’s another letter.
East Woodlands, Somerset
• I haven’t often left a play or show at the interval, but have never regretted doing so. I support my wonderful local theatre, the New Wolsey in Ipswich, go to almost every production and take some big risks, as not everything is likely to be to my taste. By taking that risk, I have seen some utter gems, from edgy and politicised dramas to unlikely punk rock musicals – and I have loved the vast majority. Maybe once every few years a performance just doesn’t work for me, so I leave.
My lifetime total includes an amateur production of Anything Goes at the beautiful Gaiety theatre in Douglas, Isle of Man; Othello at the New Wolsey (too many swearwords, surely not in the original?), Amadeus at the National (why trumpet using a proper orchestra when they barely play more than a few notes?).
Rushmere St Andrew, Suffolk
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